AC (Acromioclavicular) Joint Injury

What is an AC Joint Injury?

The Acromioclavicular (AC) joint is formed by the clavicle and the front of the shoulder blade. An AC joint injury may include a sprain of the soft tissue, or a more severe rupture of the ligaments causing a wide separation between the two bones that form the joint.

What causes an AC Joint Injury?

Acromioclavicular injuries are more likely to occur in males under the age of 35 as a result of a direct blow or fall onto the point of the shoulder. They are commonly seen in cyclists and athletes in high-impact sports such as AFL and rugby.

An AC Joint Injury may be caused by:

Playing impact sports that involve heavy collisions with other players
Falling directly on the outside of the shoulder (in sport, or in an accident)
Repetitive movements – lifting heavy weights over the top of the head, or unsafely carrying heavy weights often in your everyday life

What are the signs and symptoms of an AC Joint Injury?

AC Joint Injury symptoms and signs include:

Pain and swelling in the shoulder and collarbone area
Tenderness over the AC joint
A visible lump or step at the AC joint which may be more obvious with activity
Discomfort with common activities – these may include anything that involves lifting over the head or reaching to the opposite side of the body
A popping sound or sensation when the shoulder is moved
Loss of strength in the shoulder
Inability to move the shoulder in its normal range of motion (this can be tested against the other shoulder)

How is an AC Joint Injury diagnosed?

Depending on the severity of the AC Joint injury, Mr. Soong Chua may be able to identify it immediately, because of the physical deformity that this kind of injury can cause.

However, Mr. Soong Chua will perform a full history and physical examination of the shoulder, monitoring the range of movement of the area, and the level and location of the patient’s pain.

In order to confirm the diagnosis, an X-ray may be required. Mr. Soong Chua will make an assessment based on the X-ray, and decide upon a treatment plan.

What are the treatment options for an AC Joint Injury?

Depending on the severity of the AC Joint Injury, the patient may be able to regain complete function of the joint, with non-surgical treatment options such as modified activity, rest and physiotherapy.

However, in some cases, the AC Joint Injury will require surgical treatment. It is best to have the surgery performed as early as possible, to avoid the injury worsening. The surgery may include the reconstruction of the connecting ligaments and soft tissue, and perhaps the use of a tendon graft to repair/reinforce the ligaments. For more information on the shoulder procedures that Mr Soong Chua performs, please see our Shoulder Procedures Page.

If you have concerns with your shoulder condition, please do not hesitate to book an appointment with Mr. Soong Chua.

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